Carretera Coves de s'Ermita, 49, 07589 Capdepera, Illes Balears
The Artá Caves are located on the coast in the municipality of Capdepera, in the Cap Vermell, surrounded by mountains that tower over the sea. The caves have been visited since times gone by and it is very likely that the island’s primitive inhabitants knew of them, as did the various populations that later inhabited the island.
The Artá Caves are located on the coast in the municipality of Capdepera, in the Cap Vermell, surrounded by mountains that tower over the sea. The caves have been visited since times gone by and it is very likely that the island’s primitive inhabitants knew of them, as did the various populations that later inhabited the island. Going through the towering entrance, we gain access to the chamber known as the Vestibule or Entrance Hall, where countless stalactites with prodigious shapes and extraordinary proportions hang from the high arched roof. Tall stalagmites rise up gracefully from the floor. They vaguely resemble human forms, mysterious, motionless, rigid visions that are indifferent to human gazes, and have that imposing superiority of nature’s marvellous creations.
Hidden inside stones, rocks and mountains are hollows or crevices of varying sizes. Even in the most compact minerals minute cavities, the product of diverse circumstances, are visible to the naked eye. In the mountains it is unusual not to find these hollows of assorted shapes and sizes, some of which are completely closed off while others have openings to the outside world, obstructed to a greater or lesser degree by rock slides. The origin of these concavities can be found in the following phenomena:
Sudden dislocations of the earth.
The constant action of groundwater.
The formation of mountain ranges during the different geological periods and earthquakes are two of the main causes of the formation of caves. Groundwater flowing along impermeable beds slowly undermines the upper clayey layers until they eventually collapse, leaving a space covered by other calcareous or tufaceous layers that are sustained by their arched forms. The formation of caves is observed in almost all types of known terrain but where they are most abundant is in calcareous rocks, where they acquire gigantic proportions and take on extraordinary forms.
If caves do not have an outside opening, water penetrates their walls producing the same effects. Once the cave has been formed as a result of either of the phenomena mentioned, water circulating above the cave, containing calcium bicarbonate and smaller amounts of magnesium, filters slowly through small fissures giving rise to the following features: when a drop of water appears on the roof of the cave, it leaves a deposit – as a result of excess carbonic acid being released – of the calcareous material that it carried in solution, which is the material from which a stalactite is slowly formed. When the drop falls to the ground it still contains some calcium bicarbonate, which is deposited on the cave floor to form the stalagmite. After many years these two formations may eventually come to meet and form a solid column, which will often have a bizarre, fantastical shape. Furthermore, before evaporating, the fallen drop slides across the ground creating the hard, sinuous surface that forms the floor of almost all caves and underneath which lies a clayey soil that often contains a considerable number of bones from extinct species plus the remains of man’s primitive tools. The age of the geological formations is not always in relation to their height.
Sometimes it is possible for a four metre high stalactite to have been formed more quickly than one two metres high or even one a metre high. Caves are not only an object of wonder for visitors but also an object of study for scientists who have found irrefutable evidence of man’s prehistoric period and of many animal species that are now completely extinct. They are dark, silent places, where it is almost impossible to hear the fall of the minute drop of water that appears, clean and transparent, at the end of the stalactite and expands, falls and slips across the sinuous floor, creating numerous features as it goes. Nature is at work here, discretely and silently, and so slowly that the advances of her mysterious work are measured in centuries. The powerful chemical energies and dynamics of the various elements that circulate around the silent enclosures are the invisible architects that raise arcades, porticos, statues and columns, seemingly following preconceived aesthetic ideas, as if wanting to reveal the typical features of diverse artistic manifestations. Next to these magnificent, imposing creations of nature our insignificance is apparent.